Ivan Lewis, the former Labour Party MP who left the Party during Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, has labelled suggestions that Labour’s result in Bury South proves that the Party has repaired its relationship with the Jewish community as “dangerous and misleading”, describing those who suggest otherwise as being “totally out of touch with reality.”
Mr Lewis, a former MP for Bury South who quit Labour and endorsed the Conservatives in the 2019 General Election, called on voters not to support the Conservatives in the local elections last week due to numerous controversies surrounding the local association. Campaign Against Antisemitism helped to publicise these controversies and has written to the Conservative Party calling for an urgent investigation.
In a Facebook post outlining his interpretation of the local election results, Mr Lewis wrote: “I am pleased that Bury Labour Group retained control of the council. I hope this sends the strongest possible message to Bury Conservatives about tackling the antisemitism in their ranks…Finally, there are some who are suggesting that Labour’s result in Bury South proves the Party has repaired its relationship with the Jewish community and the fear of antisemitism has dissipated. They are totally out of touch with reality and run the risk of sending a dangerous and misleading message to the national Party.
“A significant proportion, possibly a majority of Jewish voters who voted Labour in Prestwich, Whitefield, Radcliffe and Unsworth in the council elections or abstained from voting remain very concerned at the prospect of a Labour Government. They have not yet been persuaded that the Labour Party has left the antisemitism of the Corbyn years behind…They do not dispute Keir Starmer has made serious efforts to improve the situation but continue to mistrust the Party’s instincts and worry about those activists who still deny the scale of the antisemitism problem in the Corbyn years.
“These voters voted Labour or abstained in the council elections because of their support for local candidates, concern at antisemitism in the local Tory party and in the full knowledge their vote would not lead to a change of Government…”
Mr Lewis’ sentiments echo an analysis conducted by Campaign Against Antisemitism of the local election results in the heavily-Jewish borough of Barnet in London. Sir Keir Starmer and other Labour figures claimed that the results in Barnet indicated that the Party has regained the Jewish community’s trust, but our analysis demonstrated that the evidence did not in fact support this contention. Indeed, polling for our Antisemitism Barometer last year showed that an overwhelming majority of Jewish voters — 81% — still believed that the Labour Party is too tolerant of antisemitism. While it is not in doubt that the Labour Party under Sir Keir’s leadership is in a more promising place vis-à-vis antisemitism than it was under his predecessor, it is indisputable that there remains a great deal of work to be done.
Our analysis was protested by some Labour activists, who also pointed to Bury to defend their interpretation of the results. Mr Lewis’ intervention may make those claims even more difficult to sustain.
The Labour Party was found by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) to have engaged in unlawful discrimination and harassment of Jews. The report followed the EHRC’s investigation of the Labour Party in which Campaign Against Antisemitism was the complainant, submitting hundreds of pages of evidence and legal argument. Sir Keir Starmer called the publication of the report a “day of shame” for the Labour Party.
Campaign Against Antisemitism advocates for zero tolerance of antisemitism in public life. To that end we monitor all political parties and strive to ensure that any cases of concern are properly addressed.